Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 - time marches on

The changing of years is an artificial thing. It just happens to be the day on a calendar when we reflect the fact that our planet has a 365-day cycle. For the Chinese calendar, a new year starts around our February. The Hebrew calendar rolls over in September. In our culture, the new year begins a few hours from now. No matter when it is, it's a chance to reflect and to look forward. And so that's what we do.

2012 was quite a year. It contained all the challenges I wrote about a year ago, and then some.

Just a few highlights:
  • I broke my leg near my ankle in early February, my first broken bone ever. That was interesting. 
  • There were indeed big changes at my company. I got a new boss in the middle of the year, and our president retired in December and a new one took office.
  • I took a Visiting Orphans team to Ethiopia and once again my heart was moved to continue reaching out to the children there. I made new friends as part of the trip, friends who now mean a whole bunch to me.
  • My niece Haley graduated from Alabama.
  • My very dear Aunt Odell passed on into the Lord's eternal care. 
  • I read several books that expanded my vision of what God is doing in the world and what my role should be. 
  • Countless experiences with family and friends, ranging from travel to just sitting around enjoying being together. Never underestimate the significance of these.
  • I could go on and on (but I won't).
It's amazing how fast that went by. It really seems like only yesterday that I was in the Superdome watching the Crimson Tide win its 14th National Championship. And now that time is upon us again. Indeed, time does march on. So, as another year arrives, what do I want 2013 to look like?

First, I acknowledge that I have no clue what God holds in store. Any planning I do will be helpful, but there will also be many surprises. That said, here are a few things I want to focus on:
  • I want to make sure that my focus is on relationships and not just accomplishing tasks. I want to grow in my closeness to God of course. But also I want to develop deeper relationships with my family and friends, focusing on things that matter.
  • I want to pray more. I have become more and more aware that the real results in the building of God's kingdom will be accomplished by him. I am doing work that makes a difference, but neither I nor any other human (or collection of humans) can bring about his purposes in our own power. So I want to pray more.
  • I want to successfully navigate the changes as my nephew and nieces progress into adulthood. I want to always be there for them, but in ways that are helpful to them and not for my own benefit.
  • I want to continue to make a difference with the children of Ethiopia, and build awareness of their needs in my world. To that end, I am going back to Addis this summer. If you want to go with me, find out how in this link: Manis Team - June/July Ethiopia
  • I want to be a leader at work, bringing about God's purposes through how I treat people and the quality of work I do.
That's a handful. No way I can do it on my own. So I go back to prayer. By me and for me. Thanks in advance.

2012 was a great's hoping that 2013 will be even better. Regardless, there are only a few years to work in this lifetime. Let's make the most of this one.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Where is my hope?

The end of the year is approaching. The New Year holiday is normally considered a time for new beginnings, resolutions to do better, the putting behind of the mistakes of the previous year. But this new year comes with a shadow looming over it - something called the "fiscal cliff."

It seems to me as I followed the last election and the news of the day that everyone has financial security on their minds these days. Conversations with friends and work colleagues certainly support this. How do I process all this anxiety as a Christ-follower? Enter the prophet Habakkuk.

Habakkuk lived at one of the most discouraging times any nation ever faced. Israel had been blessed by God, beginning with Abraham's call, continuing through the Exodus and the establishment of a kingdom in Palestine. But now they were facing disaster. God's judgment was coming through the invasion and occupation by the Babylonian Empire. For years it was easy to be thankful to God and bless his name. But now things were getting hard. How to react?

As Habakkuk pondered this, he finally prayed to the Lord in chapter 3 of his book. He told what he saw, and was very open about his fear:
I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. (v. 16)
But then he uttered these amazing words, words that can transform one's attitude toward trouble, and the fear that accompanies it:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! (v. 17-18)
And there it is.

Habakkuk's hope was not in the crops and the cattle; in our terms, it was not in his wealth or financial security. He's nervous sure, he expresses that fear. Nothing wrong with facing that human emotion head on, and telling God how he feels. But in the midst of that, he rejoices! He is happy! Why? How? Because his hope is not in those things. He says that God can allow every single one of them to be taken away, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because his hope is in the Lord, not the things of the world.

I have seen first hand that what Habakkuk says is true. I have worshipped with believers in regions of the world where they cannot even imagine the lifestyle we have. You know, the lifestyle that we not only take for granted, but actually get defensive when it's threatened as if it were our right. And you know what? Those Christians have every bit of the joy and contentment in Christ that we do. Maybe even more, because they have not tasted the fruit of material prosperity - fruit that can so easily become a poison to our spiritual health. Compared to us, the "trees have no blossoms" and "there are no grapes on the vines." But they have joy.

So I'm going to pray for the strength not to worry. Our economy may survive the current stress; if that happens, I will continue to be thankful for God's blessings and use the resources he trusts me with to build for the Kingdom. It may not; if that happens, I will rejoice that the Lord is all I need and depend on him to get me from day to day. I'm not going to determine my beliefs (personal, social, political, or otherwise) based on what is best for my lifestyle; I'm going to base them on what is best for God's kingdom.

The fiscal cliff may be a long, hard fall. It may not. Either way, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


I was interested to read this article on Tim Tebow and the flap over his reaction to not starting for the Jets this past Sunday:

No Letup in Attacks on Tebow

Now, it's no secret that I was glad Greg McElroy got the start. It's great to see a Bama man get his chance, and I thought it was fitting that he be chosen over the guy that Bama tried to recruit before "settling" for Greg.

But the writer has a point. Tebow has been a model of character ever since he was thrust into the public eye. He often turns the other cheek to vicious comments. He works in overseas missions for the oppressed at every opportunity. He honors God's command to save himself for marriage. I think he lives a life of service to the King of kings to the best of his ability.

But he is human. And thus he is a sinner. And, as the article points out, the vultures are circling - waiting for their chance to say, "See? Fake! Fake! Fake!"

Because that's what happens when light shines in the darkness. The darkness can't stand it and wants to put it out. If I can show the light to be imperfect, maybe it'll have to go away.

And so they pounced this week. Tebow probably didn't handle the situation perfectly. I know I couldn't navigate that mine field. But wow, what an overreaction!

And, as the writer points out, they will continue to circle. Waiting for the next slip up.

And so it is for all of us who endeavor to follow Jesus. There are forces out there who don't want to believe it's real. And so they watch. And circle. Waiting to devour us if we falter.
And so it has been and so it is written / On the doorway to Paradise / That those who falter and those who fall / Must pay the price. (Javert in Stars, Les Miserables)
 No room for grace.

But we are children of grace. We will fail, and God is there to pick us up.

I pray for Tim Tebow. He is in the spotlight, and rightly or wrongly some will judge the validity of the Christian faith by watching him.

And I pray for you - because somewhere there is someone watching you in the same way. And so please...pray for me too.

Hang in there, Tim.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas card

Since I haven't mailed Christmas cards out, like, is your Christmas card. Is this something a wife is supposed to make sure I do? If so, that explains it. Maybe I'll try next year.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to all my friends! Love y'all!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Joy to the World

In 1719, Isaac Watts published a set of hymns based on the Psalms. Of all the hymns in that collection, this one is probably the best known:

It was pointed out to me recently that Watts really wrote this song about the expectation of Jesus the Messiah's triumphant return at the end of history rather than about his entry into the world as a baby in Bethlehem. After all, there are no mentions of mangers. Or shepherds. Or wise men. Or Mary. Or reindeer. (Just checking whether you're paying attention, ha!)

He did base the song on the last half of Psalm 98:
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for he comes to judge the earth, with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.
But to me the wonderful thing about the song is that it is a near perfect expression of the mystery of the Kingdom of God. Throughout the Hebrew scriptures (AKA the Old Testament) the story of redemption was wrapped in a paradox. YHWH promised that he would rescue the whole earth from their sin and rebellion, and he would do so through his people Israel - not just for them but through them. And it also was filed with a promise that the God would one day exercise his right as King over everything. But...the promise contained interwoven passages of a triumphant reign and the fact that the Messiah would suffer to bring it about.

Israel's king but also king of the world (no Titanic jokes please)? Coming in power to rule but also coming in humility to suffer? Huh?

But both were (and are) true! God entered the world in a tiny town as a little baby. He lived, taught, and suffered in order to rescue his people from sin and begin the reign of God's kingdom. And he will come again to bring heaven and earth together, setting everything right once and for all.

So, as I read it, there is no reason to separate Christmas from his future Glorious Appearing. It's all part of one wonderful story that we are privileged to participate in. To insist on Watts' hymn being about one or the other is to make the same mistake the religious leaders of Jesus' time did; to do so is to miss the fact that the triumphal return in dependent on the mission of Jesus. It's one unified plan.

So joy to the world! The Messiah has come to initiate his kingdom, through his suffering and death. He reigns today through the subjects of his kingdom and he will come again to set everything right. Psalm 98 is not about just one part of that, and neither is the hymn.

The Savior reigns! Let heaven and nature sing with joy! Let men their songs employ. He does rule the world with truth and grace. And - in today's world - he does make the nations prove the glories of his righteousness.

Joy to the world!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Yes, it's true

So there it was, and I couldn't take it back:

I left an Alabama game early once. 

 I was just having a little fun with whole Mayan apocalypse thing. You know - the end of the world that didn't happen today. Thought that would be a funny little line to throw out in the pretense of last confessions. But jusging from a couple of tweets, I shocked a few people:


 me ashamed. 

 what?!'s the story. I did the right thing, I promise!

Alabama was playing in the inaugural Music City Bowl in Nashville, and my good friend Lee was living there. His girlfriend had a friend who was, well, a prospect for me in her mind. And so the set-up was on. I would pick up the young lady in Athens, AL, meet the other couple in Nashville and we would hang out all centered around the football game.

She was nice. She was very attractive. And I thought we got along pretty well. Not a bad date. And then we all headed to the game.

If you are an Alabama fan, you probably know that night as an unmitigated disaster. If you are a Hokie, it was a glorious night. The Tide got crushed 38-7, and it wasn't that close.

The weather was miserable. It was around 30 degrees, very windy, and wet. A very oppressive rain/sleet mix was falling and we were freezing our tails off. The third quarter ended, already 38-7. Minutes ticked by. Our half of the stadium emptied. And there the four of us sat.

And suddenly a light bulb went off underneath my thick skull. Are these people as crazy as me - all three of them? Sure, I never leave a Bama game early and I'm not planning to now. I always stick it out (thus the shocked tweets above). But I got it.

So I turned and looked past my date and asked Lee, "Is the only reason nobody's mentioned leaving is that you told them I wouldn't leave no matter what?"

"Yes." Laughter. Shivering laughter, but laughter.

So I caved. I said something like this: I can't bring myself to do it, but if y'all leave I'll go with you.

And thus it happened. I was trying to be considerate to my date. But of course it was too late for that  - probably about a quarter too late. We got along 'til the end of the date and I still think she was nice, but the idea of us seeing each other again never really crossed our minds.

And so that's it. My "end of the world confession". I did leave an Alabama game early once. Once.

Roll Tide.

Monday, December 17, 2012

From weeping to rejoicing

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men's report of the star's first appearance. Herod's brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, "A cry was heard in Ramah - weeping and great mourning.Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead." (Matthew 2:16-18, NLT)
Can you imagine? Can you imagine the grief, the devastation, the utter despair that must have been felt by the mothers of those children? Unfortunately, we can all imagine it just a little better today than we could have four short days ago. Because we have seen it on TV, as we've watched in horror the scenes from Sandy Hook Elementary School and its community. There is nothing more heartrending than the death of children, and when it's deliberate, cold-blooded, and totally senseless, that makes it so much worse. I know all our prayers tonight are with those families and their friends.

The fact that it occurred during the Christmas season does not make it any more horrible, but I think it some ways it may seem so. This is the season of celebrating childhood and its innocence, and that has been cruelly ripped away from the people close to Sandy Hook forever. Maybe that's part of why it struck me. It struck me that a devastating tragedy - an eerily similar one - was part of the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus.

You know what happened, but there's a good chance that you've never attached yourself to it emotionally. Because it was so long ago. In a foreign land. Happening to people you know nothing about.

So can you imagine? As you think about Sandy Hook, sure you can. Believe it or not, the numbers are probably similar, according to this source which extrapolates the probable number of deaths at around 20 based on the population of Bethlehem. Around twenty children murdered - not by a deranged madman but by an intentional act of the government. Chilling...and heartbreaking.

So how do we make sense of it all? Where do we find our comfort in times like these (and those)?
After this interview [with Herod] the wise men went on their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! (Matthew 2:9-10)
Filled with joy. Unbeknownst to them, as they left to see the child Herod was setting in motion his evil plot. They rejoiced because, whatever else was going to happen, the promised King had been born.

This is the one who was coming to fulfill the promises made to mankind throughout history through his people Israel. One day, all the evil in the world would be defeated. One day, God would reign as king over the world. One day, he would come to rescue people from the world's system, the forces of evil, and their own corrupt selves.

It wouldn't be by force. It would be through suffering, through a cross that defeated death and sin, and a resurrection demonstrating his power and his plan to free us all from death. But make no mistake, he came to reign over the world and it is his.

It's hard to understand why bad things happen. Why is suffering part of God's plan to bring his kingdom on earth, spreading justice, grace, and mercy? Why did children have to die as part of the Messiah's entry into the world? Why is there still so much suffering today?

I confess: I don't know. But I do know the God who is over all and loves us so much, and I trust him. I know that through all the pain in my life he has been right there, extending love and mercy and comfort. I know that he has a plan so big I can't even begin to fathom it.

And I know that's the message of Christmas - it's why the wise men rejoiced. Maybe we needed to know the horror of Herod's action to understand that Jesus' mission was not about providing easy answers. It's about love coming down to suffer in our place, bringing joy not instead of suffering, but in the midst of it.

Joy to the world! Let earth receive her King!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Congratulations, Haley!

I am so proud of my niece Haley as she prepares to graduation tomorrow. It is bittersweet because she will now begin a new phase of life, and change is never easy. But it is also exciting! I can't wait to see what God is going to through her in the world!

As we prepare for the big day, here are just a few pictures that help remind me how special she is...

Early bowl game (Music City or Independence?) Brodie probably still remembers this.

Family reunion on Lake Murray

On the way to the Bama-FSU game

With soldier at the Roman Coliseum
Say "famaggio"

Florence (not Alabama)

Don't let go, Haley.


Remember the Rose Bowl.... #13

And #14

And I could add a hundred more.

Love you, Haley! Looking forward to the rest of our life journey.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A tradition

Tonight I continued a fairly new tradition. This is the third year that I've made a point of experiencing Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God. It is the most amazing thing. Through music, it tells the entire story of history - the story of Jesus who came to rescue us as God had promised. I can't put into words how he does it, although I took a shot two years ago. A weak shot.

What I do know is this: It is now an essential part of the Christmas season for me. When it ends, I feel I can celebrate the birth of the King of kings with the right perspective on why he came. That's the brain part. But I also am standing there in awe of the One who created me, loved me, and came to rescue me. That's the heart part. Combined, there's nothing left to do but worship.

This year, the fact that jumped out at me was that it was the God of Israel who came in the person of Jesus to fulfill the promise of the Passover for all people. And as I realized that, I could hear myself praying along with the children of Israel,

Lord, let your judgment passover us
Lord, let your love hover near
Don't let your sweet mercy passover us
Let this blood cover over us here

As you celebrate the season, may you experience the joy of knowing that, through the Messiah Jesus, God's judgment can pass over you, leaving nothing but his mercy and love.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


The moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on. Nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all they tears wash out a word of it.
-  The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

As I look back over my life so far, a big thing I notice is that it is not one long, continuous story. Yours isn't either, is it? There are definite phases, periods of time where there were specific things God wanted to do for or through me in very specific ways. Some transitions were easy to see (like graduations) and others I can only tell looking back. And really the breaks are often muddy. But a few that seem obvious looking back:
And so on. In addition, there are friends that move in and out of your life, and others that last and last through all seasons. I have a friend who has pointed out to me that this part of God's perfect design - some he wants to use during a season of your life and others become like family for life.

Am I rambling yet? Let me stop. Here's where this is all coming from: big changes seem to be happening for people who are close to me. I have a niece graduating from college and others who will have to adjust to the fact that she has graduated. My good friend (practically a brother) had a daughter move off to college out of town this fall. Two pairs of friends both had a third child within the last few weeks - causing child raising to shift from man-to-man to zone.

And on it goes.

Here are two things I want to say if any of these friends and family happen to read this:
  1. The end of a phase may seem sad, but I have found each phase to be better than the one before it. Yes, it is painful to leave people and things behind...incredibly so. At those times, it is probably true that things won't ever be the same again. But I would not trade my life for anything. Why? Because God has used every one of those experiences to draw me closer to him and help me see my purpose in life. There is no point in regret. No matter how I got here, I am more excited about the future than I have ever been!
  2. Those phases move awfully fast. Treasure each one of them...each day, each hour, each minute. The Bible is right when it tells us that our life is like a vapor. Trust me on this, my younger friends and family, it only moves faster. Don't wish you life it!
Here's how Five for Fighting said it:

I'm blessed to know all of you. I look forward to the rest of the journey. Every phase.

Monday, December 3, 2012

One for the ages

The Crimson Tide of Alabama now has SEC Championship #23. And it's on the a quest for National Championship #15. But it was not without a "dawgfight." A few weeks ago, I wrote about the LSU game and tried to put it in perspective with the best Bama games I have been blessed to attend. I was not wrong - it was an amazing game and contained that one moment you can look back on if you win a championship. But what I saw Saturday night..well, it was at another level. Let me explain...but first, let's take a moment to enjoy the key moment:

So I've been asking myself, "What makes this one so special?" At the risk of overanalyzing, I've come up with this: All the great games on my list contain at least some key elements that make a game memorable. Elements like:

  • An exciting finish, with the outcome in doubt until the final horn,
  • Tremendous intensity from both sides throughout the course of the game,
  • A handful of plays from both sides that were turning points,
  • Multiple changes in momentum,
  • A refuse-to-lose mentality from both teams,
  • High stakes, and
  • A packed house and an amazing atmosphere from the the fans.
As I look back on all the games I've attended, a few stand out - as I mentioned in the previously linked post. But as I looked over the list, I noticed that most of them were amazing because of some of the items on this list. For example, the 1985 Georgia game had everything except the high stakes - there were no championships on the line. Or the 2009 SEC Championship Game:  it had the high stakes and will always be a wonderful memory as a Bama fan, but Florida did not do their part to make it an all round classic like this one.

But this! Everything on that list - everything! - was there. Back and forth, back and forth. Big plays. Turning points. Teams in the brink of disaster but somehow rising up to fight again. A finish that will be talked about for decades. And stakes up there with the highest - the championship of the sport's best conference and a chance to play for the big prize.

And finally, one of the best examples of mutual respect I've ever seen between two fan bases.

What a day! Roll Tide! And, because they earned it...Go Dawgs!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

40 hours from now...

One goal...the championship of the nation's best conference.

"Go teach the Bulldogs to behave..."

Let's get #23. Roll Tide!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Two and a Half

Did any of you catch this story today?

Star of Two and a Half Men trashes show

This raises alot of very interesting questions for me as I live out my life in one kingdom while being a citizen of another.

It seems young Mr. Jones has come to the realization that the show he's working on promotes values he no longer believes in. So, while continuing to work and draw a huge paycheck, he is asking us not to watch. So is he a hypocrite? (Well, of course he is since "hypocrite" means play-actor. But you know what I mean.) If he actually wanted to leave the show, could he break his contract? And if he did, would the breaking of his word be a greater sin than working for a show he believes is wrong?

Should we admire him for speaking up, or be disappointed in him for continuing to work there?

These are tough questions. I don't have all the answers; if I did, I wouldn't suffer the same tension as I live in a world where self-promotion is everything while trying to serve a King who tells me to die to myself. But there are some basic principles that I think apply.

  • In any profession or worldly endeavor we will be part of systems that go against what we believe in our core.
  • We cannot, must not, give in to those and be just like the citizens of this world.
  • But we also must not withdraw from the world. We can't be the salt of the earth and the light of the world if we refuse to be part of the world.
  • While we are part of this world's culture and power structures, we must never fear to stand up for truth. If we keep silent because we fear consequences, that will be a sign that we have bought in to the current age instead of God's coming age.

I don't know Mr. Jones' heart. But it seems to me he's trying to live out the tension as best he can. I may not agree with him. But I can pray for him.

And as I work through these issues in my own world, I can use your prayers as well. Thanks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

In 140 words or less: Red Dawn 2012

Red Dawn is a remake of the 1984 classic:

Remembering how much I liked the original, I watched them back to back tonight.

There is no comparison. The writing, pacing, and dialogue were on a whole different level. Leaving the  cinema tonight, I was moved and inspired by the story in a powerful way.

In the movie, there are forces of evil threatening and attacking our freedom as Americans, and this small group of kids fought back, causing havoc among the enemy forces. They do so at great personal sacrifice and make a difference.

As I watched, I thought about the forces of evil we all face - they are real. Am I willing to fight back? At what cost?

It entertained, made me think, and I left with a new perspective. If I were you, I'd check it out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Repost: "By faith..."

As I search for a way to express my thankfulness for all the people God has placed in my life, I can't say it any better than this post from two years ago. If you have come into my life since then, just know that I was talking about you too...before I even met you. So here is the link to that post. This one is for all of you:

By faith...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

One of those nights

Last night was amazing.

Yes, the dominoes fell to get my Crimson Tide back in the BCS race. Yes, there was amazing football to watch. Yes, I was on the edge of my seat, and even pacing, as the incredible game between Stanford and Oregon played out.

But mostly it was amazing because it was one of those "shared experiences" (a perfect term used by my friend Brian). I didn't just watch the greatest sport on earth and feel the drama as several games played out all at once. I did so with a group of friends and family totally about 20. It was a night with those people that I will never forget. It was like /I was frozen in time, and that frozen moment will always exist.

As much as I might try to capture every day like that, there are some that stand above others. This was one:

November 17, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Where your treasure is...

It was unprovoked. It was surprising. It was a phenomenon of the social media era.

I was (sorta) minding my own business, watching Monday Night Football with some friends. As I am wont to do, I checked my twitter feed during one of the commercial time outs. I saw something fairly innocent - a little discussion (if you can call comments in bits of less than 140 characters a discussion) between a sportswriter and a fan. The topic? The assertion that Alabama fans did not even think about the SEC Championship until after the loss to Texas A&M last Saturday.

Well, I knew this to be untrue  - at least for me. While I focus on the prize from the top down (national first, then SEC, etc.), I always have and always will consider winning the conference to be a big deal. So I tweeted, simply...."I did."

What a firestorm. The fan in the exchange I saw attacked me immediately. He checked my twitter feed (incorrectly referring to it as a timeline - it's not facebook, dude!) and noted that I had a large number of tweets with the hashtag #roadto15.

Guilty as charged. As I said, I want my friends to know that Alabama football has high goals. But if you were around when I talk football with friends and family, you would know I'm alot more complicated than that. But he judged me - totally - based a series of tweets.

Problems with that? Well, let's see. In such short bites, it will be shallow. It is easy to manipulate your image. No, dude, you cannot tell what's important to me from twitter.

Or can you?

This got me thinking about alot more than football. People will judge what's important to me by the topics I choose to discuss on twitter, facebook, and this blog. It paints a picture.

But more than that, there are indicators that predate social media. Indicators that reveal what's inside. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21) He also pointed out that good trees produce good fruit and vice versa.

In Batman Begins, Rachel Dawes made a profound statement to her childhood friend and crush Bruce Wayne. She said, "Deep down you may still be that same great kid you used to be. But it's not who you are underneath; it's what you do that defines you." Well, I don't think the two can be divorced from each other. She is right, it is what you do. But it's what you do because what you do reveals what you really are.

So I have to ask myself: How do I spend my money? How do I spend my time? What do I talk about a lot? What do I pray about? Those are things I do, and they define me. Because they reveal what's underneath.

So yeah. Maybe the #roadto15 hashtag did reveal a bias in my priorities as a fan (although I still maintain it's a caricature). That's all the dude could see, so it's all he had to go by. And so it goes...
with social media and with life.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Saturday in perspective

I think this tweet says it all:

This weekend was a great reminder that nothing (including Alabama football) can truly fulfill you besides a relationship with Jesus Christ.

 You think you're into football? You think it's important to you? No way it can be more so than it is to Barrett Jones, who invests blood, sweat, and tears into being the best offensive lineman he can be. And yet, this is his perspective.

So yeah, Saturday hurt. That's the point and fun of competition: the "thrill of victory" that comes from the fact that there is always the possibility of the "agony of defeat".

But it can't fulfill. Thanks, Barrett, for the reminder.

To God be all the glory.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reflections in the afterglow

I'm still trying to process what I saw Saturday night. It was the most amazing ending under the most intense pressure you'll find in a football game. Everything was on the line for both teams and it was another classic Bama-LSU game. This has become possibly the top rivalry in the SEC. And when TJ Yeldon crossed that goal line....

....well, wow!

The emotion of that night is summed up in this video posted on youtube:
(If you follow this blog, you may recognize someone at the 1:51 mark.)

It was a night I'll never forget. It makes me reflect on other great Bama games of the past. Here is a Top 11 list of games I've been to in the 44 years since my parents first took me to a game. If I thought through it on a different night, the list might be different. By tonight, this seems like a pretty good one. They are selected based on how memorable the game was from an "on-the-field" perspective. At some point, I plan to compile a list based on how meaningful a game might have been from a family/friends or off-the-field point of view. That list will definitely be different.

Note: The list is chronological. It's too hard to rank them! In the case of bowl games, dates are based on the season rather than the actual date of the game.

  1. Alabama 14, Penn State 7, 1978. This was in the Sugar Bowl and was the first of five national championships I've seen the Tide win in person. Known mainly for "The Goal Line Stand" where Barry Krauss famously called across the the Penn State QB, "You'd better pass." They didn't.
  2. Alabama 20, Georgia 16, 1985. The first final-drive comeback from Bama that I ever saw. After falling behind on a blocked punt with only a minute left, QB Mike Shula drove the Tide to the winning score. Like the game this week, they got into field goal range where they could have tied it, but didn't settle for that.
  3. Alabama 25, Auburn 23, 1985. The Kick. Probably the most exciting fourth quarter ever, with four lead changes and a long drive leading to a 57-yard field goal by Van Tiffin. The key to the drive was converting a 3rd-and-18 (with 4th-and-4) after a sack. 
  4. Alabama 28, Florida 21, 1992. The very first SEC Championship Game, played in Birmingham. Florida seemed on the verge of blowing it open all night, but never could. Then, Antonio Langham broke a tie with a never-to-be-forgotten pick-6. Bama was SEC champions and headed to play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl.
  5. Alabama 34, Miami 13, 1992. And this was the result. The heavy underdogs manhandled  the Hurricanes including a famous play where George Teague stripped the ball from Lamar Thomas and returned it. The Canes have never been the same.
  6. Alabama 22, LSU 16, 1998. Saturday's game was reminiscent of this one, although there was not nearly as much on the line then. It was memorable because it was an incredible comeback in Tiger Stadium and is the only time I remember where the Tide recovered an onside kick as part of a comeback. They recovered from a 16-7 deficit with less than five minutes remaining.
  7. Alabama 40, Florida 39 (OT), 1999. A double digit underdog to the third-ranked Gators, the Tide rode the back of Shaun Alexander to the most exciting overtime win in their history. I never will forget that 25-yard run.
  8. Alabama 12, Tennessee 10, 2009. "Rocky Flop." This was almost the negative image of the 1998 LSU game. A vastly less talented Tennessee team hung around and hung around.  Then they scored and got the ball back from an onside kick and could have won with a  field goal. But Terrence Cody blocked his second FG of the day, and Bama had faced their biggest challenge on the way to...
  9. Alabama 37, Texas 21, 2009. "Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then." There was nothing like winning the national championship in the Rose Bowl venue, because that was where our national tradition had been born in the 1920's.
  10. Alabama 21, LSU 0, 2011. Just a dominating performance against an intense rival. Getting to play them with everything at stake was huge, and then to shut them down like that - awesome! And...
  11. Alabama 21, LSU 17, 2012. Maybe it's too soon to put it on the list. Maybe the glow is so strong that I have no historical perspective. But this was the most thrilling finish with most on the line...ever. That combination is so rare. If Alabama goes on to a championship, this is the moment where they became that team.
So there it is. Alot of years, summed up in 11 incredible games. There are so many more. You just can't beat college football. Right?


Saturday, November 3, 2012

The night before "Christmas"

Well, I just arrived in Baton Rouge a little while ago, and I am now settled into my hotel room. And it does feel a little like Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve, when as a kid you are so excited about what the next day will bring. For Alabama and LSU football fans, this day has become like that. Every meeting seems to be proclaimed a "game of the century." Once again, it's a battle of Top 5 teams with national championship implications. This has truly become the most anticipated game on the Tide's schedule every year. For good reason.

So...random thoughts as I sit here trying to decide if there's any point in trying to sleep.

  • Objectively, all the data about team performance this year suggests that my side ought to be alright. The QB play has been worse than mediocre, which is what I expected as expressed at the beginning of the season in this blog post.
  • However, Bama is playing a team that can match up with them physically for the first time all year and that can't be ignored. If LSU comes out with their best game, it will be a war. I hope that when the Tide is in a war - for the first time this year - they'll be mentally tough enough to close it out. I think they will, but - as they say - "that's why they play the game."
  • I don't know which game or games, but I believe there will be major upsets tomorrow, and there will be a reset of the BCS discussion. Oklahoma State is so explosive offensively that I suspect it'll be Kansas State falling.
  • And, despite the ineptness of Lane Kiffin as a coach, don't count out USC against Oregon. The same thing applies to them as LSU. Incredible talent that has been underperforming.
  • Ole Miss has been much better than expected and Georgia is coming off a huge, emotional win. The Bulldogs had better be ready...this one smells dangerous.
Regardless, it's all going to be fun. I can't believe we are already in week 10. It goes by waaaaaaay too fast.

Roll Tide. Beat everyone.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fringe: The Bullet That Saved the World

It was, I dare say, one of the all-time great episodes of Fringe. And that's saying a heck of a lot.

This last Friday night's episode had it all. Action, adventure, poignant scenes. Love, hope, desperation, sacrifice, anger. I really don't even know where to start writing about it - I just had to. So let me try to set up the scene below with a little background for non-fans.

In the scene, after a humorous exchange designed to provide contrast (lasting about the first 30 seconds), we see Etta and Olivia preparing for a mission. Olivia is Etta's mother - despite the fact that they appear to be about the same age. (This - and please don't check out on me - is because Olivia has been suspended in kind of a cryogenic state for 21 years.) Etta has a necklace with a bullet she found among her mother's things when she was 13. This bullet has great significance. Watch:

SPOILER ALERT: If you watch Fringe and haven't seen the episode yet, go no further. Stop here and watch it immediately!

Yes, the bullet has great significance. If you saw the Season 4 finale, you know that Olivia was shot in the forehead and died. It's impossible to explain without laying out four years of storyline, but she had to die in order to save the universe from a destructive energy radiating from her. After she died, the bullet was removed and she came back to life.

It was definitely (somewhat intentionally I suspect) a type of the death of Jesus and how it has redeemed and saved our universe. Especially since she was able to come back from the dead having accomplished her purpose.

So the interesting thing to me was this: here we are, 20+ years later. The original threat is gone, but the world still needs healing in a big way. And here is her daughter, holding on to the bullet, connected to a chain, worn as jewelry. Do you see where I'm going? The bullet is to the Fringe story what the cross is to our story. A bullet is a hideous thing, an instrument of death. But because of its significance, this bullet is worn as jewelry. Exactly like the crosses we wear around our necks.

Listen to Michael W. Smith on the subject:

What is your line?
Why do you wear your cross of gold?
Does it find a way into your soul? 

REPEAT SPOILER ALERT! Major plot point ahead!

For Etta and her mother's bullet, it did find a way into her soul - it drove everything she did her whole life, up until a moment when she met up with her own bullet. A bullet that, I believe, will turn out to be the bullet that saves the world from the new threat. (Such a wonderful title to the episode, with multiple meanings - love that!)

Will you and I (like Etta) each take up our own respective crosses? Or will we just wear them around our necks?

Friday, October 26, 2012


Saw this posted on twitter today:


Seriously, State? You're comparing tomorrow's game with Alabama to a victory over a pair of Sun Belt teams? And...well, never mind that.

And that slogan! It's bad enough when you use it on your side of the state line. As if we cared.

As my niece pointed out earlier tonight, for goodness sakes let's keep all the microphones away from Dan Mullen. We don't need a high school-ish pep talk disguised as instructions on the proper time to use cowbells. (Btw, that would be never. And I hope our gate staff has the guts to confiscate them.)

Thanks for stirring up the sleeping dog.

Roll Tide

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More dashboard

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Life has its phases. I began going to Alabama football games with my parents and sister at the age of eight. It's been a family thing for me all my life, a chance for us to do something together. Ten years ago, it entered a new phase: the era of road games with some or all of my nieces. Oklahoma 2002. Really? 2002? That long ago?

The pace picked up at the gals entered college. Many times with Haley, Macy, and Brooke...

And other times Haley and Macy...

I've been thinking alot about these good times this week. There are so many amazing memories, so many funny stories, so many goofy things I did, and many great football games.

What do I do with those? How should I look back on my history, good and bad? As a Christ-follower, what is the right mix?

Believe it or not, it wasn't a Bible verse that brought a proper perspective (although the one at the beginning of this post is a good one). It wasn't words of wisdom from a godly friend. It wasn't a book. Instead it was...

A tweet.

From a freshman football player.

Less rearview mirror and more dashboard.

Tell it, Amari Cooper! Six succinct words that mesh perfectly with what Paul was saying in Philippians. Now sure, Amari was thinking about his football team (roll tide) needing to look forward to the task ahead instead of dwelling on past accomplishments. But his words cover so much more than that. They cover life. And this is already one of my favorite all-time quotes.

So what do I do with all the memories I've accumulated? I will rejoice in the awesome ones like those shared here. I will look back to the hard times and maybe even get sad at at times. But I won't - I can't - live my life looking backwards. There's too much at stake. There's a Kingdom to spread. There are people to love. And there's a crown to claim.

Less review mirror and more dashboard.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just in case you're confused...

If you are my friend, you know this is my current facebook profile picture, taken in Knoxville last Saturday...

Now, I know what you're thinking. Those are the two young ladies who were all over ESPN during the game Saturday night! Right? Like in this screen shot from the broadcast:

So...clearly, I saw them on campus and said, "Hey! I know y'all. Can I get a picture with you?"

No, not quite. They are my nieces and I am very proud of them. Not because they were on TV but because of who they are.

It was a great trip, and another great Bama game.

More on our road trip legacy later in the week. Well, it's a crazy week at work, so if I can carve out some blogging time, more later.

And if you see Haley or Macy, be sure to ask them for an autograph. Or a picture with them... ;)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Kingdom on a football field

"But I tell you: love your enemies! ...Look at it like this: if you love those who love you, do you expect a special reward? Even tax-collectors do that, don't they? And if you only greet your own family, what's so special about that? Even Gentiles do that, don't they?" (Matthew 5:44, 46-47)
 "The kingdom of heaven," he said, "is like a grain of mustard seed, which someone took and sowed in his field. It's the smallest of all the seeds, but when it grows it turns into the biggest of shrubs. It becomes a tree, and the birds in the sky can then come and nest in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32)
A friend tweeted a link earlier this evening to a story. A story that surpasses anything from my ordinary day that I might write about it. So I felt compelled to share it. As I watched this short video (about 5 minutes), I could see the life of Jesus bursting at the seams. This is why he came, to produce fruit like this. Check it out:

The first thing I saw was this: The very idea is full of what God's kingdom is about. Jesus came to launch a world where through his power we can do the impossible: loving those who can give us nothing in return for no reason other than it's how God loved us. Forgiving them completely. Drawing them to the person of the Messiah through love that is so powerful it cannot be resisted.

The second thing is just as significant: This video told the story of how other schools latched on to the idea and made it happen again. And before long, these kids are encountering the unconditional love of God wherever they go to play football. That is what I believe Jesus meant in the parable of the mustard seed. It starts so small - random acts of obedience that can be only explained by the fact that God's Kingdom has arrived. And it grows...and grows....and grows. Like a mustard seed grows into a tree.

It makes me ask myself: What can I do today that will plant a seed? That's all I need to do...God will take it from there.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Tonight was the second of three debates leading up to the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. Judging from the posts on Facebook (and other conversations), there is alot of stress over this election. Many believe that the outcome will determine the quality of their lives.

Maybe. But only if we measure the quality of life by our safety, security, and material possessions.We are not promised any of those things.

As a follower of Jesus, I am taking a step back t look at what is promised. Jesus came to establish God's rule as promised to his people in the Old Testament. Through his death and resurrection, he told hold of the world and rendered all other kingdoms inept. He is now in charge, and I am an to be a subject of that kingdom, bringing about his will on earth.

So bring on the next President. Do I have a preference? Sure. But I'm not stressed, because I know who holds the future - the One who came to establish God's temple in my heart.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bottle caps? Seriously?

A few years ago, I was in Athens, GA with my friends Brian and Tommy for the Alabama-Georgia football game. It was halftime and the Tide was getting killed. I went to the concession stand for a Coke and when I got it, to my surprise, they took the bottle cap away from me.

I was like, what?? One of the worst things about Cokes at a ball game is when people spill them on your stuff. If we can screw the cap back on after every sip, that won't happen. But nooooooooooo! I couldn't keep the cap.

Why not? Well, apparently they were concerned about the possibility of fans hurling the caps toward the field if they got upset. Don't like the ref's call? Throw a bottle cap. That's right...your bottle cap. What a threat.

Apparently, this is the rule (or law) in Georgia and other places. At concerts, games, and other events in Atlanta, they have consistently refused to give me the cap. So, speaking of Georgia....

Friday night I got back to my hotel room and was watching Sportscenter. For those of you who don't know, there was a bad call in Atlanta (that's right!) where umpire Sam Holbrook incorrectly applied the infield fly rule. (Read the whole story here.) Well, the game was delayed for 19 minutes because the field was cleared for the safety of the players. Fans had begun to throw debris to express their displeasure.

So take a good look at the picture. See any bottle caps?? Oh yeah, those would be dangerous. Beer bottles, soft drink bottles, food packages. But as I study the picture I don't see any bottle caps.

The fans' behavior Friday night was inexcusable. But I've got to confess that wasn't my first thought. My first thought was how silly it is to think you can prevent this by taking caps off soft drink bottles.

So call me a rebel, but when I go over there I will continue to bring my own cap from a soft drink at home. When they give me a capless bottle, I will walk away and put it on the bottle. And I will never ever throw it at anyone!

My neighbors who don't get my drink spilled on their stuff thank me. Or they would if they knew.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Sunday surprise

As I type this at the gate in the Port Columbus airport, I'm still basking in the glow. Not of the game I came here to attend, but of the worship time this morning. It's amazing how God works.

This is an open date for the Crimson Tide, and usually when that happens I will attend a Florida State game with my good friend Steve; it's a great reason to get together with my brother who lives over three hours away. But this year, there was no FSU home game. So I planned something crazy. I decided to go see a college football game between two legendary programs in a stadium I've always wanted to see. Nebraska at Ohio State:

It was alot of fun. Wonderful, cool fall football weather. An impressive and extremely loud stadium. Several very cool traditions - every school has them and theirs were fun to watch. Great trip. Done, get some sleep and go home.

But even when traveling, I like to try to find a place to spend some time worshipping with other Christ-followers. So last night I did a little online search, and found something surprising. This morning there was a service at a perfect time relative to my flight plans (10 am) at a Vineyard Church. I checked a couple of links, and it was indeed connected to the church I attended in Tuscaloosa a few weeks ago.

The point of sharing this? About midway through the pastor's message, I realized that this was probably God's purpose in getting me to Columbus. (Yes, I believe he uses fun to bring us where he wants us to be.) I made a choice to be here for one thing, and he said, "Uh huh. You just think that's why you're going."

What was so special about this message? Well, it's hard to put into words in a blog (especially if I want it to be short enough for you to keep reading). But here are a couple of key points:
  • Romans 12:9 says love must be genuine, and the following verses give examples of what genuine love looks like. I've never thought of the passage that way before.
  • First, we should hate what is evil and cling to what is good. If I really love someone, I will violently hate the things that harm them or cause them to harm others. Real love is not (as our society is telling us) unconditionally supporting every choice someone makes. It is having the courage to speak the truth and help them cut off those things that undermine their God-given purpose. (And yes, since I hate confrontation, this one is hard for me.)
  • Genuine love is marked by showing honor. Am I courteous to people? Do I show respect, even to those who are against me? Do I show honor to people who serve me in restaurants, airports, and other service industries?
  • Finally, and this one was a ton of bricks, genuine love is marked by God's energizing power. When a fire is lit, it doesn't keep burning on its on. Similarly, my fire needs to be fanned every day. Was there a time when my fire for loving God was hotter than it is now? The pastor said that he starts every day with a prayer to this effect: "Jesus, apart from you i can do nothing. I can't think like you, feel like you, love like you..." So true. I need to be connected every day, or the fire will go out.
Yep, it was a great trip - alot of fun. But I don't think it's why I was here. Thank you, Lord, for Sunday surprises.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No stopping them

Okay, have you heard about the Alabama football fans who had a slight detour on the way to the Ole Miss game last weekend. A slight detour as in, a plane crash! But that didn't stop them because....well, here's a link to the story...see for yourself:

Bama fans undeterred by plan crash - CBS Sports

Crazy, no? I know football fans in this state are dedicated, but that's a whole new level. did make me think of two games in my past.

1) I was on my way to a home game (I think it may have been Ole Miss) with a friend. We were going around the loop onto University from McFarland when I felt a bump from behind. Yes, when I stopped to yield, the car behind me kept going. It turned out that there was no damage and we moved on. But what I remember the most is that I didn't think, "Dang, my car is damaged!" or "Dang, my neck is sore!" My first thought was, "Dang, I'm going to be late to the game!" True story.

2) In 2007 my nieces and I were sitting by our car in Starkville, MS tailgating before the Bama-MSU game. We were listening to the radio from my car when suddenly the sound stopped. It stopped because the battery was dead on my car. Well, I called around a little to see who could come and jump it off but with ball game traffic there were no good options. So I made the only rational decision I could: I decided we would go to the game and worry about getting the car started afterward. All of us agreed - we couldn't miss the game. Again, true story. (Right, Macy? Haley? Brooke?) Fortunately, the car gathered enough juice sitting idle for several hours that it actually started when we got back. I'm not sure that taught me the appropriate lesson.

So yes, we football fans are a little focused on game day. It is so much fun that we don't want to miss it. But rest assured: if I'm in a plane that crashes and I'm lucky enough to survive, I'm done for that day.

Promise. Really.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I don't think so...

Ok, during a search on the iPhone Livestream app, my friend Steve came across this page (above). Notice the 3rd link from the top.

Some broadcast called "God's Healing Power". And to the left a note for the use:


Can I just say....never. It's always online, always there for us.

The power, that is. Not the video stream.

Got it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Carrying around garbage

Yesterday in Tuscaloosa I visited a new church. On football weekends I often go to church up there before heading home. I enjoy Calvary Baptist which is about a block from my place. But I had heard good things about Vineyard Community Church, so I decided to go there.

Great atmosphere, welcoming community, enthusiastic worship and a very thought-provoking, Biblical message. I enjoyed everything about it. But one quick conversation grabbed me, and I don't even know whether the young lady meant to say what I got out of it.

Basically, they handed me a bag of goodies to welcome me as a first-timne visitor. The usual stuff - brochures, statement of faith, schedule of activities. But also a name tag. Well, I peeled the back of the name tag, stuck it to my shirt, and proceeded to wad up the back and put it in the bag.

That's when the young lady spoke up. She held out her hand, beckoned me to hand her the wadded up piece of paper, and threw it in the trash can behind the counter. And she said....(wait for it)...."We don't want you carrying your garbage around with you."

What an awesome statement of the church's mission! We all have garbage in our lives. Use whatever word you want for it - baggage, sin, addictions, idols - things that clutter up our lives and keep us from being everything we were created to be. Jesus came, launched the kingdom of God, died, and rose again so that we would not have to carry our garbage around with us anymore. And the church is here to help us realize that potential.

I don't know whether this mini-sermon was intentional. But it doesn't matter, because I think it was a byproduct of a church with the right attitude. They are there to help love people and help them shake off their garbage. I entered Vineyard  feeling like they get it. Before I heard a note of music or a word of a sermon.

So wonderful to be among a community of people who know what it means to live out God's purpose. A great Sunday morning. Thanks, VCC.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another great Saturday

I love this time of year. Yes, it's redundant for me to say so. But there are worse things than redundancy.

Today's football Saturday had all the elements. Great weather. Good food. Family spending the whole day together. Football games to follow around the country. The wonderful atmosphere of football in Bryant-Denny. And oh, of course...another Bama win.

In addition, I had some visitors from the other side of the pond. Some friends that I work with from London were in town and got to catch the game with us. And see the entire campus atmosphere. It was so much fun to show them around. And I think they enjoyed it...

What do you think?

And then the day ended hanging out with family after the game. And I really enjoyed talking football and also some plans with two of my nieces. I am very aware that my nephew and nieces are now all adults now and our relationship is different than when I was their adult uncle who needed to take care of them. But tonight for some reason, I realized how much I like that. I realize that I used to dread it. But it just hit me anew tonight how cool it is to have four new grown friends...and that they will be so for the rest of my life. Thanks, y'all, for making that transition so easy. Looking forward to the next (God willing) 20-30 years.

Well, that's a wrap on September 22. Roll tide.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 important as what

Then he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)
If there's anything clear in Scripture, it's that following Jesus is a matter of the heart. It's not just about doing the right things, but about why we're doing them. He wants to change us from the inside out.

Today I read an article on sexual purity that was a compelling example of this principle. "True love waits" is a noble campaign to encourage purity in young people. But I'm a classic example of the question raised by the article: if the motivation for waiting is the "carrot" of marriage - when the waiting will be over - what is the motivation if marriage isn't in your immediate future? (For example, if you're going to be single into, say, your 50's or beyond.) Since the purity was temporary, until marriage, how do you respond when temporary approaches permanent?

The answer is complicated - like it is for all life questions - but the short version is this: God doesn't want us to be pure just because we're waiting for the day when we don't have to be. He wants us to be pure because we are denying our own selfish desires for a greater joy, fellowship with the Father through Jesus. In other words, future marriage isn't my motivation for purity; my faith is.

So purity in this area is spiritual discipline that will teach us to live Luke 9:23 in all areas. No wonder Jesus says elsewhere (Matthew 5:8) "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

The whole article is here:  "True Love Does More than Just Wait" (Relevant Magazine)

If you'll take the time to read it, I think it'll challenge you like it did me.